Elkettes turn corner in win over Española

January 24, 2019

ESPAÑOLA — It was time to hit the reset button on the Pojoaque Valley girls basketball team.

After playing seven games in an 11-day period and losing three of their last four, the Elkettes seemed to hit the figurative wall at the worst time — right before District 2-4A play. So, after a frustrating 40-38 loss at Santa Fe Indian School on Jan. 15, Pojoaque took a moment to reassess things.

“We kinda needed a little break,” Elkettes junior wing Michaela Martinez said. “That’s what we did. We took a few days and talked about what we wanted to do.”

Pojoaque looked like it needed a little more time to figure that out after the opening quarter against host Española Valley in the district opener Tuesday night in Edward Medina Gymnasium. Down 17-3, the Elkettes battled their way back using their size to attack the basket.

It worked, as three players reached double figures to lead the rally and a 56-53 win.

The drama didn’t truly end until Lady Sundevils sophomore Destiny Valdez hoisted a 40-foot prayer in the hopes of connecting on the team’s 12th 3-pointer of the game that drew nothing but air with 2.3 seconds left. Española head coach Joe Estrada said he couldn’t have asked for any more out of his hot-shooting, but undersized squad.

“I can’t sit here and think of anything we did poorly,” Estrada said. “There were turnovers in hard times, there were missed shots in hard times. But that’s basketball. I thought we played pretty well, but they played one shot better.”

Actually, the Lady Sundevils made one more field goal (19-18) and hit 11 3s to the Elkettes’ three. The difference was at the free-throw line, as Pojoaque (15-3) went 15-for-22 compared to Española’s 4-for-9.

It was Pojoaque’s desire to consistently attack the paint that led to the free-throw disparity.

“They are resilient and relentless,” Elkettes head coach Seledon Martinez said. “[The Lady Sundevils] are a fast-starting team and they caught us a little flat-footed in the beginning. We knew they were going to hit a couple of 3s, but don’t panic. We’re going to hit a couple of 2s and get a foul and we’ll get back into it.”

Española (9-8) did more than just hit a couple of 3s — it went 5-for-6 to start from the perimeter and senior Kaylinn Martinez knocked down three of them to help build a 17-3 advantage when Kaylee Chavez nailed her lone 3 with 3:37 left. But the game played out exactly as coach Martinez predicted.

Pojoaque responded with a 14-0 run fueled by four layups, a putback and a 4-for-5 performance at the charity stripe. When Taylor Roybal scored on a breakaway layup with 11 seconds left in the quarter, the score was tied at 17-all. The next two quarters, though, were a Coyote vs. Roadrunner exercise. Española scored the next 11 points, capped by a Kaylinn Martinez triple, but the Elkettes recorded the next seven to get within 28-24 on Michaela Martinez’s 3 at 4:29 of the second.

The Lady Sundevils lead grew to 35-26 on Jasmine Baca’s 8-footer in the lane, but Pojoaque responded with a 7-0 spurt to trim the deficit to 35-33 on Alicia Sanchez’s putback just 38 seconds into the second half. The Elkettes tied the score at 38-all when Michaela Martinez, who had 10 points, knocked down a shot off the glass with 4:24 left in the third and 43-all on Roybal’s corner 3 with 2:14 left, but it seemed that Española always had an answer — until it didn’t.

When Camille Cordova scored on a putback with 1:51 left in the quarter, the Elkettes were finally up 45-43, their first lead since scoring the opening bucket.

“We needed that to build our momentum,” Michaela Martinez said. “We used that to build our momentum. That was really big.”

Not even the seventh 3 from Kaylinn Martinez, which gave the Lady Sundevils a 46-45 edge at the 7-minute mark, could slow down Pojoaque. Three straight layups followed for the Elkettes, with Ashten Martinez (who had a team-high 14 points) scoring the last two to make it 51-46 with 4:35 left.

Not that Española went away. Using pressure that forced 24 turnovers, the Lady Sundevils got two steals in the final 2 minutes with Pojoaque nursing a 54-48 advantage. The first steal led to a Kaylinn Martinez 3 —the last of her team-high 26 points — and the second turned into a Chavez layup with 41.6 seconds left to get it within 54-53.

Adrianna Quintana hit a pair of free throws with 25.5 seconds left for 56-53, then the Elkettes played air-tight defense to force the desperation heave.

“I had all my shooters out there,” Estrada said. “They made shots all night long. They just needed one or two more passes.”

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